Knuckle Cracking

I'm not a knuckle cracker myself. In fact, I hate it when people crack their knuckles. And I've frequently told people that cracking their knuckles would cause arthritis. After all, that's what everyone says. But according to this NY Times article (republished in the Arizona Republic) it's not true. It's an urban legend.
Just reading this description of what causes knuckles to crack makes me cringe:
The loud pop of a cracked knuckle is caused by synovial fluid, the thick lubricant that surrounds every joint. When the fingers are stretched or bent backward, the bones of the joint pull apart. This creates bubbles of air in the fluid, which subsequently burst.
But as for the evidence that knuckle cracking doesn't cause arthritis, the article cites a 1990 study:
The largest study to explore a link to arthritis was published in 1990 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. It looked at 300 healthy people older than 45, 74 of them habitual knuckle crackers. The rates of arthritis of the hand were similar in both groups, though the knuckle crackers, on average, had reduced grip strength.
Still, I think I might keep telling people who are cracking their knuckles that it's going to give them arthritis, just to annoy them and maybe scare them into stopping.

Body Manipulation Health/Medicine Urban Legends

Posted on Tue Feb 01, 2005


rofl @ greg
Posted by LMAO  in  lmao @ greg  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  01:30 PM
haha why is there a forum on cracking knuckles?

i crack mine all the time, and my toes, and my arms, and my knees, and my neck and back and my ankles and my elbows.

Posted by Melania  in  Viginia  on  Fri Feb 24, 2006  at  07:04 AM
I've been cracking my knuckles all the time, every day for about 6 joints have become fairly swollen....i just can't stop doing it! I even crack the tips of my fingers...

My hands are very shaky sometimes, especially when tired...could this be from my life destroying addiction to knuckle cracking! AHhhhhh!
Posted by Tom  in  UK  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  02:15 PM
cool hmm Craking my knunckles is fun.

anyone here crack their toes at all?
Posted by Melania  in  my house...  on  Wed Mar 01, 2006  at  07:42 PM
yeah melania, I pop my two big toes. I can't go for more than 2 sec without doing it.
Posted by Carter S  on  Wed Mar 01, 2006  at  09:47 PM
i crack all my bones. its my biggest weakness. for the last past 8 yrs i have had my girlfriend step on my chest in honor to crack my sternum. stepping on my back is no big thing. i gotten to a point where i have her step on the side of my ribs. theres not a time im not cracking a bone. its bad from head to toe. it does get addiciting sometimes i dont know if i would rather have sex or have all my bones cracked.
Posted by eric  in  L.A.  on  Sun Mar 26, 2006  at  08:18 PM
Everyone describes joint cracking as a hobby.
I must crack my joints from exteme stiffnes, especially in my back. If I don't crack my back, I am in a great deal of discomfort. I must have someone step on my back, twist or bend over backwards over a ridge edge. The stiffness is not always easy to get rid of. It makes life very unpleasant at times.
Posted by john  in  ny  on  Sat Apr 08, 2006  at  04:49 AM
I've been a knuckle/joint cracker for at least 15 years - I've noticed that sometimes the tension doesnt go away when I crack the joints. It makes me want to keep trying, that leads to soreness or injury to those joints... I can crack almost every joint in my body - even knees and shoulders, elbows, etc. I found this forum since Im trying to stop - good luck to everyone one else who wants to be freed from this addiction!! (at least we're not addicted to drugs!) cheese
Posted by Alexis  on  Mon Apr 10, 2006  at  09:00 PM
Another cracker here--as others have said, there's a dull ache from an uncracked joint and if it goes too long (it can be quite hard to get my right little toe to crack these days) it can actually get to hurting. It also makes them feel more flexible.

There's also the issue that a joint pushed almost to the point of cracking will likely hurt until it does crack.

All 15 finger/thumb joints, wrist (only if they have been inactive for at least an hour), elbow, knee, ankle, 9 joints of the toes (the little toe doesn't have the flexibility to crack the second joint), neck and low back.
Posted by Loren  in  Las Vegas, Nevada  on  Sat May 13, 2006  at  11:31 PM
I crack my knuckles, my toe knuckles and my back. I can't sleep at night because of the cracking and because i stress of having arthritis now i am so relieved. i'm still worried because im only eleven years old and it is os addictive.
Its so hard because there is no Nicabate CQ for knuckle cracking and you can't call a Quitline.
Posted by Susan  in  Australia?  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  08:53 PM
I'm surprised that your fingers hurt when you don't crack them. for me, its this really wierd feeling that makes you want to stretch.
Posted by SUsan  in  Australia?  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  08:57 PM
not only do i crack my knuckles, but i also tend to crack everything else. i can crack my toes, my back, my neck, my ankles, and sometimes my hip. my mom always tells me it will give me arthritus, but i just cant help it.
Posted by tara  in  canada  on  Mon Jun 19, 2006  at  06:32 PM
I have been trying to find a way to stop popping my hands and neck. I got into this habbit ever since i moved to America in 1999 when i say some kids doing it at school and i have been doing it ever since, and i need to stop cause it is realy starting to bother me and my health. Does anyone have any ideas on how to stop?
Posted by John  in  Alabama  on  Sat Jul 22, 2006  at  09:53 PM
Funny that on a thread about hoaxes someone should bring up the well known hoax about science saying bumble bees shouldn't be able to fly.
Posted by Billy  in  Earth  on  Sun Jul 23, 2006  at  03:17 PM
I've cracked my knuckles for about 6 years. (I'm only 15.) I think I'm going to start to count how many times I do it a day. My aunt tells me I'm an obsessive knuckle cracker. It's just a habit to me. I first learned about 6 years ago from my brother. (Who is 19 and also a habitual knucle cracker.) He showed me how to do it and ever since then it's become a repetitive daily habit. I can't usually pop my toes as many times in a day as I can my fingers, though. Usually only once when I wake up in the morning and maybe 2 more times during the day. I very rarely pop my neck and even more rarely pop my back. It hasn't yet gotten to the point where it's painful if I don't crack them, however, it's really annoying if I don't. As a matter of fact, just sitting here typing and stopping I've popped my knuckles twice. My grandmother tells me it'll make my knuckles larger and my aunt tells me I'll get arthritus. Grandmother may be right, but from reading this, Auntie is wrong. I wish I knew how to crack my back with a little more stregnth, and maybe my knees and elbows...Wowsers at that one guy who can pop almost every joint.
Posted by Mag  in  Houston, Texas  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  02:03 PM
I'm a musician and I've been popping my knuckles for several years. Not more than eight, I know. I play the piano, guitar and violin. I didn't start popping my knuckles until after I hurt my left hand (I jammed my fingers), and after the first time I popped them, they felt a lot better. I don't do it much any more unless I'm having trouble with finger dexterity, and it seems to help. Since then, I've learned to pop my back, neck, elbows, knees, tailbone, shoulders, and probably other things I'm forgetting. I don't pop any of those often unless I one of them is bothering me, in which case I pop all of them (because it feels good!).
Posted by Riba  in  US Iowa  on  Thu Jul 27, 2006  at  05:45 PM
I to crack just about every joint in my body. Ankles, knees, tailbone, back, shoulders, elbows, fingers, thumbs, neck, nose (how that occurs I do not know), wrists, pelvic joint, feet, toes...

I can't think of one joint I do not crack. Do it all the time too.

Very odd, it is.

I would like to see some sort of experiement done under sonar or ultrasound to see exactly what happens in the joint when we do this.

And it can be done quickly after being done before.

Very strange thing we do.
Posted by Dave  in  Atlanta, GA USA  on  Fri Jul 28, 2006  at  10:44 AM
I read recently in my biology textbook that frequent use of hands causes a build up of these "bubbles", as the liquid is constantly moving round our joints.

I never used to hear any sound from my wrists, no matter how hard I tried to "crack" them. But ever since I started playing piano and therefore stretching my fingers, moving my hands, etc, I have been able to crack at will.

The claim about cracking causing arthritis is wrong in my case, and maybe in several others. On the contrary, seeing as my cracking is due to a large amount of exercise and use of my hands, chances are I am less likely to get arthritis when I'm older.

I hope this helps to answer a few questions

Love Emma (aged 17)
Posted by Emma  in  England  on  Tue Aug 29, 2006  at  04:47 PM
Interesting thread. smile
I have been an avid joint cracker for more than 20 years which accumulated in a strong desire to learn and stop.

It has become an addiction for me and I personally thus define it as hurtful, as a condition, a disease, something to get rid off, to stop doing.

For the longest time I have been completely in the dark and have been laughed at by doctors I asked about this.

Not even a year ago I started a web community with the sole purpose to share and discuss this topic to condense all criticial knowledge in one single place for everyone to become the wiser.

You are all very much invited to visit us at

I'm humbled by AVF from Boston, MA who already posted in January 2006 the biggest answers I have been longing for. His summary post is perfect in line with all the research collected in one year so far.

To be sure, joint cracking isn't necessarily evil for everyone. In China it is even common health practice. Some reported, like here, that it helps them to maintain good joint health.

It only gets bad when you can't stop doing it. Like what happened to me. Through knowledge I am now much more aware of the issues at hand and am more able to get a grip on it.

There is still much to learn about all this.
Posted by JointCracker  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  02:11 PM
I HATE KNUCKLE CRACKERS!!!! My roomate does it all the time and she does it so often, that i just want to srangle her! if she doesn't stop soon, i will get VERY irratated.
Posted by ARGH!  in  Canada  on  Thu Nov 02, 2006  at  06:51 PM
I'm a 7th grader, 13 boy. Lately during science class getting bored I've twisted in my chair to crack my back. during dome of my other classes I push to crack it. I noticed that I'm doing it much more often, and the noises are getting slightly louder. It feels good, and I like doing it more. Even sitting at the computer I crack it, and I noticed that during school I have to crack it or otherwise it feels a little stiff. I've had my sister walk on it once or twice, and it feels so good. I read some articles online, finally ending up here at the blog. I'm going to try and stop. I suppose eventually my body will get used to it being not cracked again. I hope so, because I don't think it is good for your vertebra. And it is addicting! It's at the point where I have to crack it like routine every day. I'm going on strike to not crack it anymore. Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.
Posted by peter  on  Wed Jan 17, 2007  at  08:33 PM
hahahaha wow... that's the weirdest thing i've ever heard... so that's the fact behind knuckle cracking... ew... i crack my knuckles all the times... and my friend was like it's gonna make your knuckle fatter... is that a myth too???
Posted by Kira  on  Thu Feb 08, 2007  at  09:57 PM
I've been cracking my fingers since last year and everyone I meet tells me that it gives you arthritis, but I don't believe them. It has never been proven. My friend at school taught me how to crack my fingers. She has been doing since she was 8. We are both 13 now. My brother and mum really hate the sound. I just do it out of habit. I wonder if I'll ever stop. It is so addictive,lol.
Posted by Kaity  in  Australia  on  Sat Mar 31, 2007  at  08:41 PM
I also crack my joints all the time. In fact, even if I try not to pop them, they still wind up popping just doing everyday things. Plus, it is a habit, like you've all said, I really can't help myself, and it really helps you stretch out, especially if you've been sitting still for a while. I also do know alot of people who find the sound gross, which I find hilarious. smile
Posted by Werdna  in  USA  on  Tue May 01, 2007  at  10:08 PM
Hello i am only 12 years of age and i have been cracking my knuckles for atleast 2 days lol i can only crack my knuckles when i pull my fingures.. but that hurts so instead im trying to learn to crack them by just pushing my fist.. if ya gemme ,, well i would like someone to tell me how to do that... i have looked up on websites and rarely any interests to my content.. so if anyone will help me thankyou.. x
Posted by Victoria  in  england  on  Sat May 12, 2007  at  06:05 AM
Lord Lucan is ingnorant and insulting. Just lok at the sheew scope of documented evidence that supports this theory.

And greg in new zealand.... that is really bad taste
Posted by ben  on  Sat May 26, 2007  at  01:23 AM
Lil Victoria in England. Hate to assist you with starting such a bad habit. I have been addicted to popping my knuckles and toes and back for years now. Sometimes my neck and one knee for while. I have carpal tunnel in the past several yrs - wonder if there is a relation to carpal tunnel and popping knuckles! LOL. Anyway... I used to pull pop my knuckles, then one day I did it and it hurt soooo bad! (I think that was in like 6th grade or something - I graduated from HS in 1996). So, I stopped popping for awhile, then one day I popped my knuckle in a different way and... well... I'm back to popping again. I just curl my fingers down into a fist (keep your thumb out of the way) and use your other hand to push your fingers back. Ahhh...just did it to make sure I told you right. Pop, pop, crack, pop! hehehe.
Okay, someone else was wanting help w/ popping their back. I have a few methods, but one easy one when sitting in a chair... seriously, squeeze your butt and thighs together and straighten your back, push back alittle all at the same time. Or do the same thing, but push your thighs outward while doing it. Either, works for me about half the time and cracks all the way from the tailbone up to the middle of my back. I also leave over counters or chairs, leaning right about at the tailbone area. Or you could sit straight in a chair with arms and twist, using the arms to help you pull. But that way kinds freaks me out, if I really have to pull. I pop my back to relieve the pain and stiffness. Stiffness in my knuckles and neck are why I pop those mostly. :D
Posted by Donut  in  USA  on  Mon Jun 04, 2007  at  12:55 PM
my girl friend cracks her knuckles so much that it drives me crazy and then she also cracks her toes which is sick and also like to go barefoot. She says she got it from one of her friends who does the same thing and shes been a knuckle cracker for 2 years and her knuckles are huge
Posted by dave  in  richmond va  on  Sun Jun 17, 2007  at  08:02 PM
I have to say, my knuckles haven't changed in size at all and I've been popping for years!!! (knock on wood)...
Posted by Donut  in  USA  on  Thu Jun 21, 2007  at  11:27 AM
Omg. I just read through everyones and was laughing so fucking hard.It's hysterical, I'm a stoner and reading all these thoughts really made me feel better, because I've been thinking about this for years. I crack everything. My favourite is bending backwards and hearing my spine explode from top to bottom. I feel like I could run miles after it. And first thing in the morning I twist my arms 200 degrees until both my shoulders sound like they've dislocated. AND NOTHING FEELS BETTER.

crack is so not wack.
Posted by clairey  on  Tue Jun 26, 2007  at  07:02 PM
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